a month and a half after the accident, 21 sailors still stranded on their cargo ship

a month and a half after the accident, 21 sailors still stranded on their cargo ship
a month and a half after the accident, 21 sailors still stranded on their cargo ship
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Julia Nikhinson / REUTERS In Baltimore, eastern United States, the Dali ship under the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge.

Julia Nikhinson / REUTERS

In Baltimore, eastern United States, the Dali ship under the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge.

INTERNATIONAL – They haven’t moved for seven weeks. The crew of the Dali, the container ship that struck the iconic Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore last March, is confined to their own ship. Since the incident, the almost 300 meter cargo ship has remained immobile, trapped under debris from the collapsed bridge.

This Monday, American authorities blew up part of the bridge, marking the start of operations to free the ship and see it reach the port of Baltimore as quickly as possible. Because inside, 21 men are waiting to be able to live again.

Since the accident, the crew, comprising 20 Indians and a Sri Lankan national, has been unable to disembark due to visa restrictions, lack of land passes and investigations by the FBI and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

Cut off from the world and their families

According to people who were able to contact these sailors, living conditions are harsh on board. Certainly meals and packages are brought to them, but morale declines. During the first weeks of the investigation, the FBI confiscated their cell phones, leaving them virtually without communication with the outside world.

They were then given SIM cards and temporary mobile phones without data. But “They simply can’t contact the people they need, or even look at photos of their children before going to sleep”reports to the BBC Joshua Messick, executive director of the Baltimore International Seafarers’ Center, a non-profit organization that works to protect the rights of seafarers.

“They can’t do online banking. They can’t pay their bills at home. They don’t have their data or anyone’s contact details, so they’re really isolated at the moment,” he continues.

3.7 km to reach Baltimore Harbor

In a statement on May 11, two seafarers’ unions demanded that their phones be taken away from them. “quickly returned”emphasizing that the loss of communication with family members “causes considerable hardship for crew members who have small children at home”

According to Darrel Wilson, a spokesperson for Synergy Marine, the Singapore-based management company for the Dali crew. “holds up well”. “All their needs are met to the best of our ability,” he assured the BBC. For example, shipments of Indian meals were delivered on board to relieve the pressure on the cooks. Hindu priests also visited them.

But time lasts, and no one knows at the moment when the ship will be able to travel the 3.7 km that separate it from the port. This requires refloating it and clearing the debris from the bridge. And everything will not be over after this stage: Darrel Wilson estimates that sailors will only be able to set foot on land in small groups, with heavy restrictions on their movements.

“I’m trying to find out what the team wants to do”he indicated. “So I contacted a local cricket club to see if they could organize a match,” he concluded. A first reassurance, far from meeting the demands of the unions.

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